PHILADELPHIA – While the concern over Scott Hartnell’s left foot mounted Sunday when he was seen at the Flyers Wives Carnival wearing a walking boot – something he had been wearing for a couple weeks now – little was made about his recent ascension back to the top line on the team.
Maybe because it occurred in the middle of a four-game losing streak it kind of went under the radar.
Well, after Tuesday’s game, the move was no longer a stealth bomber but rather was as noticeable as B-2 flying overhead.
That’s because Hartnell scored a pair of goals and assisted on a third while running mate Claude Giroux scored and added a pair of helpers as the Flyers top line posted seven points in a 5-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings.
Hartnell has been rolling lately, and now has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in his last 21 games. Meanwhile, the three-point night for Giroux gave him 50 points this season, marking the third time in his career he reached that plateau and moved him into a tie for 17th in the NHL in scoring this season.
“Me, Jake, and Hartsy played together before and you can see a little bit of the chemistry there,” Giroux said. “But we need to be a little better too. If we spend a little more time in the defensive zone we’re going to be better.”
That’s probably a bit harsh for that trio after a thorough performance against Detroit, but it’s a positive for the Flyers that Giroux remains unsatisfied.
Nevertheless, Hartnell has been a consistent producer for the team for more than a month now and is one of the primary reasons the Flyers have averaged three goals per game in the month of January.
“Giroux is pretty easy to play with,” Hartnell said. “You get him the puck you know you are going to get it back. He always wants me to go to the net with my stick on the ice… He’s one of the best passers in the league and he thinks the game and is competitive. As he goes we go as a team.”
And as well as Giroux played in this one, Hartnell carried the load. He even had a chance to get a hat trick, but was robbed on one chance by Jona Gustavsson and then passed up a shot to make a pass to Giroux on another that was from a good scoring area.
When the lines work this well, and Steve Mason plays lights out in net, the Flyers are hard to beat.
But coming off four losses, the Flyers really needed to find this game again quickly against Detroit, and were able to do it on the power play when Hartnell tipped a Kimmo Timonen shaot past Gustavsson for 1-0.
“Our start was crucial,” Hartnell said. “We came out of the gates skating. We were hitting. We were on the puck. We were creating turnovers. That’s when we are a successful hockey team.
We needed a big win. We needed two points as we are going on a big road trip against some good Western teams. We needed to get our confidence high going into that trip and the guys played hard.”
From there the Flyers ramped it up. They made it a point to hit Detroit, pressure the puck and try to force turnovers. They were successful. The Flyers were credited with 36 hits, forced nine giveaways and were credited with seven takeaways. Those are all big numbers against a strong puck control team like Detroit.
“We just kind of went through our systems, but it was attention to detail and just the compete level, the battle level,” said Adam Hall, who scored his third goal of the season. “A lot of times it’s not rocket science, it’s just how much you want to actually compete for it. So we just tried to get back to that.”
And the Flyers did, taking away time and space from a shorthanded Red Wings squad, playing without some top players and with their lineup full of AHL call-ups.
“We were quick,” said Hartnell. “Our breakouts were great. Our centers did a good job supporting and we had a lot of rush chances. It was our best game in a couple weeks.”
And with some help from around the Eastern Conference the Flyers leap-frogged two teams back into third place in the Metropolitan Division and into a playoff spot once again.
But, if they’re going to hold onto it this time, they’re going to have to do it against three of the best teams in the NHL on the upcoming road trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
“This gives us a boost going on the trip,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’re going to play three really good teams starting in Anaheim who is the best team in the NHL record-wise. It’s going to be three tough games and I think from Mason out, it’s going to give everybody a little boost.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers
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